Sunday, June 29, 2008

Things that happen at 2:00 am

Is it ever good news when your phone rings at 2:00 am?

Thursday night, at 2:00 am, my phone rang. It was my mom telling us they had just gotten "the call" from the hospital saying my Grandma Johnson was dying. Right now. What? Grandma had just gone to a routine doctor's appointment on Monday, and they had admitted her to the hospital that same day and diagnosed her with lung cancer. But, so quickly? This just couldn't be happening.

So, off we drove into the night. I kept thinking, as we were driving, that I didn't get to say goodbye. I had been trying to get to the hospital to see her, to give her a hug, to tell her I love her, but it never seemed to be a good time for me to go. So, I hadn't made it yet. My mom and I had been planning on going in the morning. But now, it was going to be too late. This was a woman, who, for the past 32 years of my life, has not forgotten one birthday - not one. Grandma Johnson was interested in every little detail of my life, wanted to hear it all, loved to get pictures and letters in the mail, cared so much about me. She had lived in Yuma, Arizona, until my parents moved her up here about a month ago so she could be closer to family. Grandma was smart, quick, finicky, fiesty, spunky, and man, don't you mess with her unless you want an earful! Was this really happening?

I got into the car with my parents to make the drive to the hospital. I just wanted to see her one last time, and I knew this was it. When we walked into the hospital room, I didn't recognize her. I thought we had walked into the wrong room. There was this old, frail woman laying in the bed. Her eyes were closed and she was trying so hard to breathe that her whole body was rising and falling with each breath. Her mouth was open and you could hear the fluid filling her lungs as she struggled to take each breath in and out.

My mom went around to one side of her bed and my dad and I stayed on the other. We took her hands. We told her it was okay to let go, hoping that she could hear us. I just sat and watched her face, thinking, "Is this how it ends?" So unreal. We were just sitting there, watching her die. It felt so wrong. I wanted to stop it. I wanted to call a doctor in to try to save her. But this is what she wanted. Her silver hair was thin and wispy, her hands spotted with age, a big, ugly bruise around her IV line. We all prayed, and for one of the very few times in my life, I
watched my dad cry. This was his mom, the one who gave him life, and she was dying before his eyes.

I think it was too much for my dad - he wanted to go downstairs and get some coffee. So I went with him to the little cafe and we got coffee and sat at a table. I couldn't help but keep thinking about the old, old woman just upstairs whom we were so intimately connected to, breathing her last few breaths while we sat drinking our coffee. When we came back to the room, her body was still there, but she was gone. She had passed at 4:45 am. My uncle and aunt were there, everyone was crying silently, standing over her bed. It didn't feel real. I kept looking down at her, waiting for her to wake up but then reminding myself again that she was not going to.

I guess it still hasn't really hit me. My birthday is in a few days, and I keep thinking I'm going to get a card from Grandma Johnson, because I ALWAYS get a card from Grandma Johnson. I've gotten 32 birthday cards from Grandma Johnson. I just wish I would have known that last year's would be the last.

Emily Ruth Johnson, 93, formerly of Yuma, passed away on June 27, 2008, in Portland, Oregon. She is preceded in death by her first husband, Edward Morris, of California, and her second husband, Harvey Johnson, of Somerton, Arizona. Emily Ruth is survived by her sons, Charles Morris, of Portland, Oregon, John Morris, of Bend, Oregon, and Allen Johnson, of Kent, Washington. Also surviving are 4 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Emily Ruth was a watercolor, pastel, ceramic, and leather craft artist. She was also keenly interested in gardening, politics, and archaeology.In the 1940's and 1950's, Emily Ruth and her first husband were avid hunters and fishermen, spending much of their time in the Yosemite and King's canyon areas in the High Sierra mountains of California. With her second husband, Emily Ruth traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, and lived in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, and the Canary Islands, as well as Alaska, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Louisiana.In her elder years, Emily Ruth was involved in the Arizona Historical Society in Yuma, Arizona, where she lived for many years. She had only lived in Portland for about a month preceding her death. Emily Ruth was a devoted mother and grandmother and was greatly loved by her family.


The Miller Family said...

Mars, I love you so much. I am so sorry you have had so much to deal with these past few days...wish I would have been here to comfort you. Praying for your whole family.

Greg and Andrea said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I'll be praying for you and your family.

Wilson Family said...

Wow, what a hard reality to face. I know that my time with my grandparents is coming to an end tooand it will be hard to see them go. I'll be praying for you.

Christi said...

The way you wrote that made me feel like I was right there with you, so I know you will b eon my mind these next few days and I will be praying for you.

coachlita said...

So sorry to hear about your loss!! Our prayers are with you and the rest of your family. We love you guys!
Lita and Galen

lori lls said...

Marlene, thanks for sharing this story of your grandma's passing. What a beautiful woman she was! The obituary too bore witness to her adventurous and lifeful years. I am very sorry this was so sudden for your family. Many hugs to you all.